16.2 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
Every type of cancer is a little bit different in the way that the doctor will diagnose it. A lot of times, doctors will first look at you for visual symptoms. Then, if they notice anything they will do blood or urine tests. They might also do imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan. Sometimes they do a biopsy which is where they take a tiny sample of your tissue to take back to the lab to test for cancer cells. This happens a little bit differently for each type of cancer, but for any procedure that involves significant pain for a biopsy, they will numb you or put you under anesthesia (put you to sleep for the procedure) so that you don’t feel any pain. (anesthesia is not normally used for skin biopsies where simple numbing injections usually suffice)
Once you know what symptoms to LOOK out for, consider cancer tests that allow us to detect cancers that do not have external, easy to see symptoms. A handy resource that follows is a table of cancer testing guidelines recommended for adults by age. Have you had these testings done within the past recommended number of years? If not, they may help catch things early when treatment is so highly successful. For even more detail, link to the related article listed below. And in another study specifically about colon-rectal cancer (CRC), read about the mortality findings when screenings are not done or followed up properly but don't limit that thinking just to CRC since it probably applies to screenings overall (see article below). Are you up to date on those routine recommended screenings?
How is it diagnosed clinically?Kidney cancer is diagnosed through blood tests, urine tests, or imaging tests like a CT or MRI scan to look for any strange masses or shapes. Occasionally, doctors may choose to do a biopsy, which is a way to test a piece of your kidney tissue that seems abnormal. If it turns out that you have kidney cancer, your doctor will determine what stage it is in by doing more imaging tests.
Useful basic fact: Stages of kidney cancer
Once diagnosed, the term "cancer stage" will be used. For knowing basic information, the following 'stage' definitions will help.
According to Mayo Clinic, Stage 1 is when a tumor is less 2 ¾ inches across in only the kidney. Stage 2 is when the cancer is more than 2 ¾ inches across and is only in the kidney. Stage 3 is when the tumor goes outside of the kidney into the nearby tissue and lymph nodes. Stage 4 is when the cancer is outside of the kidney to multiple lymph nodes or far away parts of the body like the bones, liver or lungs.
What will happen when I go to the doctor about this?
(Click on the graphic above to read more details about kidney cancer doctor visits & diagnosis)
Your doctor will probably ask for a urine sample where you pee in a cup and/or draw some blood. Then if they think they should, they will do some kind of imaging test like a CT scan, ultrasound or an MRI where they use x-ray technologies and get some images of the inside of your body and your kidney. For these they will use a machine. For an MRI and CT scan you will likely go inside of the machine laying down. These don’t hurt at all. In fact, they often don’t even need to touch you at all to do these. They are looking for any tumors/masses inside of your kidney.
If they do a biopsy, usually doctors give you a small shot that helps numb the place where they will biopsy. This can pinch a little bit but you shouldn’t feel any pain after that while they do the biopsy. You will lay on your belly, and they will use a needle and part of an ultrasound machine that goes on the outside of your body to help them see where the needle is going on the inside. They use the needle to take a little piece of kidney tissue out to test for cancer, remember you won’t be able to feel them do it!